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Stories of Your Life and Others

Written by: Ted Chiang
Narrated by: Abby Craden, Todd McLaren
Length: 10 hrs and 22 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 39.82
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Publisher's Summary

This new edition of Ted Chiang's masterful first collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, includes his first eight published stories. Combining the precision and scientific curiosity of Kim Stanley Robinson with Lorrie Moore's cool, clear love of language and narrative intricacy, this award-winning collection offers listeners the dual delights of the very, very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar.

Stories of Your Life and Others presents characters who must confront sudden change-the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens-while striving to maintain some sense of normalcy. In the amazing and much-lauded title story (the basis for the 2016 movie Arrival), a grieving mother copes with divorce and the death of her daughter by drawing on her knowledge of alien languages and non-linear memory recollection. A clever pastiche of news reports and interviews chronicles a college's initiative to "turn off" the human ability to recognize beauty in "Liking What You See: A Documentary." With sharp intelligence and humor, Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty and constant change, and also by beauty and wonder.

©2002 Ted Chiang (P)2014 Tantor

What the critics say

"Chiang writes seldom, but his almost unfathomably wonderful stories tick away with the precision of a Swiss watch-and explode in your awareness with shocking, devastating force." ( Kirkus, Starred Review)

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant

I was turned onto this by my broyher. Very intelligent stories emcompassing great Sciance Fiction ideas. Reading is flawless

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  • Carolina
  • 2014-09-15

Amazing collection of short stories

Originally published at: A Girl that Likes Books

This was the September pick for the Sword and Laser book club

First impression

I have to admit that I was reluctant at first to give this book a try. First because I haven't read a lot of short stories so I wasn't sure this collection would grab me. Second, I went with the Audio version because my library didn't have it and I decided just to go with my Audible credit. The only other collection of short stories I've read recently was METAtropolis (also in audio) and while I enjoyed it, it didn't amaze me. Let me tell you, Stories of Your Life and Others might be the book that convinced me to try short stories more often.

Final thoughts

The collection is fantastic, I wasn't even finished and I kept telling people they had to give it a try. While very different, the short stories flow nicely. The fact that this time there were all written by the same person is really evident, even though the voice on each story changes quite a bit changing point of views and even presenting one as a documentary.

Goodreads describes the collection as multiple stories where the characters encounter sudden change. However, more than just sudden change, I believe that the common thread that this collection has is preconceptions and destroying or debunking them. From the concept of beauty to mathematics and even procreation, Chiang gives a new light to all of these subjects with touches of science fiction and even a bit of fantasy.

All the worlds presented are beautifully constructed; at no point did I get the feeling that what was being presented made no sense in the respective universe, and this is extremely important to me. This is not to say that the elements that made these stories feel outside of our world weren't there. They are obviously there without making it feel overdone and so my mind entered each story smoothly.

As might be expected, I liked some of the stories better than other, my favorites being Story of your Life and Others, which deals with the concept of language and physics, and Liking what you See, which deals with the concept and perception of beauty. Extra points for Understand not using the "we only use 10% of our brains" trope and actually going with something different.

Both narrators did a terrific job. Only at Liking What you See do we get to hear them at almost the same time, but I think they were perfect choices all the way through.

81 of 83 people found this review helpful

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  • Nathan
  • 2014-10-22

Short story collection for the thinking person

How could the tower of babel be built, how would a mad scientist view the world, What if we could make ourselves unaffected by people's looks, and what if Angel sightings were common everyday occurrences and we could see the deceased in heaven or hell? These are some of the stories this collection examines with their social, scientific and psychological impact. Some stories better than other, aimed more at plot and themes so some readers may find them boring.

37 of 39 people found this review helpful

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  • Neatoizer
  • 2015-02-10

Uniquly Imaginative and Deep worlds

These are some of the best scifi stories I've read in awhile. Many of them ive in a deep world that could easily be turned into full novels. The characters are interesting and engading and the plots are wild.

This is scifi that even non-scifi people will love

27 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Steven Petersen
  • 2016-12-22

Sci-fi fan? Like to think? Get it!

Each story is quite different and a pleasant surprise. Glad I got this recommendation and decided to try it. Golems and problems of reproduction; what happens when the Tower of Babel actually reaches heaven; really alien languages; etc. So many ideas put together in unexpected ways. A real treat. The sound editing could have been a little better. Some stories start with zero gap from the previous story which can be a little confusing while listening.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • RK
  • 2017-01-03

Masterpiece of short fiction

I got interested in Ted Chiang's work after watching the recent Amy Adams movie, The Arrival. I was thoroughly engrossed in that movie and wanted to read the work that inspired it. That's how I came across this collection of short stories.

I can only say, thank god I did. I have not been this engrossed in a story or stories in years. Not since the first time I read Titans and the Lions of Al Rassan by Gavriel Kay. What's so amazing about Chiang is that his way of writing just hooks you right from the beginning, essential for short story form. He drops you into a new world. It doesn't bother explaining everything immediately. He lets the reader figure out the rules of the world and that discovery is half the magic.

In addition the characters feel real and are all engrossing. Even Stratford and the other characters from 72 Letters, the only story I didn't really like, were engaging and wanting to know what happens kept me going right to the end. The other stories were all fantastic, with my two favorite probably Understand and Hell is the Absence of God. I was most engrossed in these stories, but most moved by Stories of Your Life.

Finally the narration by Abby Cardenas and Todd Mclaren was phenomenal. As much as the stories engrossed me listening to these two kept me completely riveted. I hope to listen to more narrations by them in the future.

18 of 21 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark
  • 2017-07-15

Odd stories except for the Arrival

I bought this book because I enjoyed the movie "the Arrival" and because of the acclaim Mr Chiang has received for his writing. I enjoyed "the story of your life" - the basis for the movie the arrival, it was very thought provoking. In some ways it reminded me of Life of Pi. However, the other short stories in this collection, were kind of odd. I think Mr Chiang is more of an artist than an author. HIs stories remind me of abstract art - some people seem to really get what the artist is trying to communicate, others people may just see a bunch of shapes. A perfect example is one of the stories "division by zero". Most of the other reviews in audible are very positive, but I wouldn't recommend this one. Narration was good.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 2017-04-01

Enough Great

I love short stories, and this is a very fine collection. A few of the stories are a bit weak, but others (including the title story) are outstanding. I got this collection because I saw a trailer for the movie Arrival (which looked interesting) and I always try to read the book before I see a movie. The title story was the basis for Arrival. I strongly recommend reading the story before seeing the movie. The movie was OK (IF you had already read the story), the story was really good. Some of the stories are a bit cerebral (I liked them). A few were early works that are a bit shaky. Overall completely worth the time.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Lost In The Wash
  • 2014-12-01

Experience An Author’s Growth Through Early Works

Any additional comments?

An interesting and often fun collection of short stories, that get a bit bogged down with noticeable exposition. Ted Chiang does a marvelous job of examining religious mythology in ‘Hell Is The Absence Of God’, while other stories drawing from similar source material are merely entertaining. If you’re religious, you’ll probably enjoy these stories more than I did. These are the author’s early works, and you can experience his progression as a writer over the course of this collection, which is neat. The strongest stories, whose themes and ideas linger, are ‘Understand’, ‘Story Of Your Life’, ‘Hell Is The Absence of God’, and ‘Liking What You See: A Documentary’. The other four tales are entertaining, but... lack something to make them spectacular.

All that being said, Abby Craden and Todd McLaren do an amazing job at narration. Their efforts are slightly marred by odd leveling issues with the audio file, but still shine through.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Happy Practice
  • 2015-01-13

Highly recommend! Thoughtful! Excellent!

I really loved this collection of stories. All of them are thought provoking and emotionally engaging. I had to stop between stories just to collect myself and revel in the reaction to each finale. Every tale is performed well by a many actors adding character and depth. Highly recommended.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Radan
  • 2017-01-31

A mesmerising display of talent

I picked up this book in anticipation of the movie Arrival. I was surprised that the original story was only one of several, but I couldn't be more satisfied. Healthy pace, original storytelling, beautiful descriptions and sharp wit is present throughout all the short stories and I loved it. Give it a try for sure.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful